Mr. Bracey's StoryMy life is an open book. It seems now more than ever, I have been asked to repeat how I arrived where I am now. In November of 1998 I was sent to prison. During my incarceration, I found that staying involved in education kept my mind focused on what my life could be when I was released. I became a Literacy Volunteer, I took a Building Maintenance Course, Carpentry, Cabinet Making, Small Businesses, Entrepreneurship, CDL Driving, Computer (PC Support) and just about any other course that was available.
The last two years of my incarceration I was placed in the Veterans ReEntry Program where I met 90Works Stability Director, Ms. Stacy Ray. Ms. Ray was instrumental in helping me find housing and a great counselor, 90Works Program Manager, Kenny Thompson. With the help of 90Works, I’ve graduated from the Electricians Course at Pensacola State College, am employed doing home improvement work and am working on building my own business. The bottom line is, there are people willing to help if you are willing to help yourself. I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to start life all over again.
Being a young woman in prison is hard. Being pregnant in prison is life changing. Tranessa held her son for just twenty-four hours before he was removed and she returned to her jail cell. For five years, Tranessa had the opportunity to think about her life and her future. But, it wasn’t easy when she was finally released. There were few resources for female felons and it was very difficult to find stable housing and work. Tranessa also struggled to reunite with her son who had been raised by his paternal grandparents while she was away. To make matters worse, her son had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and he was having severe behavioral problems in school. Tranessa found herself once again homeless and desperate but now with her child in her care.
After years of a tough street life and bouts of child welfare involvement, Tranessa finally found 90Works. “90Works was my advocate,“ Tranessa explains. “The social worker, Ms. Susan told me the truth about myself, and that truth was to stop blaming others for my problems and stop being a victim.” With 90Works by her side, Tranessa finally received a HUD housing voucher for an apartment, after multiple attempts of her own. 90Works also helped her learn to care for her son’s behavioral problems without using corporal punishment and anger and how to better understand his outbursts and challenges. By day, Tranessa was going to school and also working at Pensacola State College, but she came home every night to take care of her son. “I was still struggling, but things were looking up,” Tranessa admits. “When times got really hard, I came back to 90Works for advice and kept moving forward.”
Recently, Tranessa received a raise at work. More importantly, she earned an Associate’s Degree (AA). In the near future, Tranessa will receive her Bachelor’s Degree (BA) in Computer Networking. Even Tranessa’s son is now in accelerated reading and doing well in school. When Tranessa made the Dean List this past semester, she and her son hung their academic achievements next to each other on the wall in their apartment. More than half of convicted felons return to prison within three years of being released. As of March 6, 2014, it will be three years since Tranessa was released from prison. Tranessa has beat the odds in more ways than one; she is a valuable and self-sufficient member of our community. It takes housing, income/employment, transportation, health, safety and support to be self-sufficient. Tranessa made it!
Amy was failing high school and was kicked out of her house by her dad. She lived on the streets, under bridges and in homeless shelters for a few years. One day, the homeless shelter told Amy about a Jobs Corp program and Amy immediately enrolled in Auto Mechanics and Fire Fighting. But, Amy was not able to continue because she was now pregnant. After three children and unsupportive, abusive husbands, Amy found 90Works. “I needed a break, that’s when 90Works stepped in, Thank God!” Amy exclaimed. 90Works helped Amy and her children settle in to family housing on a disability budget of $700. The support didn’t stop there. Amy also took advantage of 90Works Strong Families and Life Skills services. She learned basic skills about how to manage a budget. Amy is so fiscally disciplined that she could support her family of four on $680 with $20 to spend! Amy was determined to get healthier so she learned how to cook, how to eat right and how to exercise. She even lost 25 pounds. And after all of that, Amy dug deep and found a job. “My kids now see I can work and I’m happy.” 90Works helped Amy down the path to a stable, healthy and strong family and she looks to be well on her way to self-sufficiency.
De’ Meterius' Story
De’Meterius is a hard working mother of two young children. Everyday she gets her children to school and then she walks an hour to work at a local fast food restaurant. De’Meterius’s second pregnancy was very difficult. When her son spent over a week in the NICU, De’Meterius lost her job. “I knew fast food wasn’t paying enough and I needed to go to college.” Even without transportation, De’Meterius managed to go to school, work and make her son’s medical appointments. After years of struggling, De’Meterius found 90Works. 90Works was able to find De’Meterius transportation and help her get her son to his doctor’s appointments more reliably. Most importantly, 90Works became a support system for De’Meterius as her family in Arkansas was too far away to help. De’Meterius has received her degree from Virginia Tech College with honors and making the President’s list with a 3.7 GPA. “I want it all. One day, I would even like to own a home,” De’Meterius professed proudly. Now, she is continuing her education and seeking a Bachelor’s Degree in the Medical Assistance program. De’Meerius is an example of how support is needed to achieve self-sufficiency.
Ashley is a preschool teacher who loves her job. “I just love watching children grow and learn,” she explained. Ashley has been a teacher for almost 2 years at a local preschool in Cantonement, FL. As with many Americans, Ashley had an expensive cost sharing health plan that she couldn’t afford. “Visits regularly cost $144, but with the cost share sometimes it would end up costing me close to $1900!” After the birth of her daughter, Ashley needed additional care leaving her with almost $1800 for an uncovered medical bill. Ashley knew she could not go it alone any longer and all it took was one visit to 90Works. 90Works was able to get her enrolled in an Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) plan that she could afford. 90Works answered all her questions and was able to help her navigate the process of choosing a compatible health plan. “The 90Works Navigators are amazing,” says Ashley. “Now my premium is $4; my deductible is $140 and my out of pocket maximum is $1,200!” “Most importantly, I’m not scared of going to the doctor anymore. It’s been a huge burden off my shoulders!” 90Works is an expert at navigating the Affordable Health Care Act and getting people health care plans they can afford and be self-sufficient.
None of us are immune to hardship. Brittany is a well-educated young woman with a law degree and a sizeable vocabulary. But when she became pregnant with twins, she was ordered to stay in bed for the duration of the pregnancy or risk losing the babies. As a result, she lost her job and the family lost most of its income. With her husband’s help, the family downsized and lived on savings and credit cards for as long as they could digging themselves into a deep financial hole. After her husband was transferred from Maryland to Pensacola with Navy Federal Credit Union, Brittany was eligible for 90Works services via the Healthy Families program. Today, Brittany has two beautiful, healthy girls. She has started working with a law firm part-time and is getting self-sufficient and stable with the support of 90Works that has helped with post-partum depression, parenting education, and a plan for a very bright future. Today, there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Ryan has big dreams of becoming a NFL football player or a Navy Seal. And, his positive attitude and great personality will serve him well to accomplish such worthy and lofty goals. When asked what the hardest part of his life has been so far, he painfully recalls being removed from his parents by the Department of Children and Families and placed with his grandparents and then removed from his grandparents and placed in foster care. Domestic violence from untreated mental illness and a glitch in the safety plan with his grandparents, left an ugly mark on Ryan. At dinner one night with the foster parents, Ryan’s younger brother did not bow his head to pray and was he was punished in a locked, dark closet for hours screaming for help. But today, Ryan is thrilled to be reunified with his parents and living a stable and healthier life as a result of better access to mental health treatment and 90Works services. Ryan has participated in the 2014 Youth Count summer camp at 90Works and will continue to work with our personal trainer, Matthew Nixon, to continue his weight training and physical fitness. Ryan was selected for our website because he is such as star and received the gold medal for outstanding behavior, attitude, and team spirit. If you are going to dream, dream big like Ryan!